The Cowboy Junkies, a deep pool of calm fire in the world of modern music (from the dj introduction), played two sold out XRT shows at the Old Town School on Friday night. This band got their start following the famous words by Albert Einstein who said (from memory) things should be kept as simple as possible but no more than that. Their second album, The Trinity Sessions, was made just so, recorded over two days on a single microphone with no overdubs in a church and it was a surprise hit.
Although in the almost 30 years since, the band has moved on to more elaborate productions, they have remained true to the ideals of basic song craft. Margo Timmins, certainly one of the best singers in the world, plays to her strengths, with a languid croon that perfectly suits the mournful, melancholy numbers of life and death of the Cowboy Junkies. Ms. Timmins was supported as always by her two brothers, a bassist and a utility player in the dark at the back of the stage. There were two chairs, flowers, a songbook and a sound baffle surrounding the drum kit, which may have contributed to a slight, uncharacteristic muffle in the normally pristine sound at the Old Town School. The band opened with some unfamiliar material, including some Vic Chesnutt tunes, and moved on to their deconstructed version of “Sweet Jane” (which even Lou Reed liked!) along with faves like “A Common Disaster” and “Misguided Angel”. They even threw in a nice take on the gospel classic “Working On a Building”. The crowd headed out in the Lincoln Square night happy, but with a slight edge of pensive.